Six Degrees

by Edmund on May 26, 2011

In 1929, Karinthy Frigyes coined the idea that any person is connected to any other within five connections, which became known as the rule of “six degrees of separation.” In 1994, Craig Fass, Brian Turtle, and Mike Ginelli turned the concept from an abstract idea into a trivia game called The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon Game, where the object was to see how quickly you could connect any actor to Kevin Bacon, through mutual films.

The Game is an entertaining novelty, but it’s also a proof of Frigyes’ original concept, and I thought it would be interesting to put it to a visual test. So I’ve collected all of the films in which Bacon’s been a major actor, then all of the major actors from those films … and so on, for six degrees. In total, this returns a huge 8,430 films and 15,079 actors. Below, I’ve trimmed the list to the top 2,000 (plus Bacon himself), and created an interactive map so you can see for yourself:

Notes: The data are from, who helpfully trim minor roles out of their cast lists, but will also lead to different numbers than sources based on IMDB. Because of the limitations of the visualization method, I trimmed the data set to 2,001 nodes so that it could still run smoothly. The trimming removed cast and films by keeping the ones with the most connections – so Moon, for example, would be cut because of its sparse cast list. Further, no nodes were repeated – so while Natalie Portman was in Star Wars: Episode II as well as New York, I Love You, she’s only appears the visualization once.

To see more information on Kevin Bacon numbers, make sure to check out The Oracle of Bacon, which can provide the fastest link between any two actors, as well as additional statistics.

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